SPOTLIGHT / A GLANCE AT THIS WEEK IN THE NFL : MEN OF TROY
John Hughes couldn’t have written a better coming-of-age script for Troy Aikman.
The Dallas Cowboys, 1-15 two years ago, were trailing the Super Bowl champion New York Giants, 16-14, and were 84 yards from the winning touchdown with 5:41 to play in Texas Stadium.
Out came the Dallas offense, led by quarterback Aikman, who has taken a big beating in his brief NFL career. Only two weeks ago against Philadelphia, Aikman was sacked 11 times.
This time, however, he would do the sacking.
After an incomplete pass, Aikman had completions for 13 yards to Alexander Wright and 30 yards to Michael Irvin, putting the ball on the New York 41.
Emmitt Smith ran the ball two yards and Aikman threw passes of five and 13 yards to tight end Jay Novacek, bringing the Cowboys to the 21. After a two-yard loss by Smith, Aikman threw over the middle to Irvin, who caught the ball at the four and broke Mark Collins’ tackle to score standing up.
“There is no question that this is the biggest victory,” Aikman said after the 21-16 decision. “It was one of the teams we needed to beat to establish ourselves. I just hope I can play here long enough where a victory over the Giants won’t be considered a novelty.”
Aikman completed 20 of 27 passes for 277 yards and the one touchdown as the Cowboys improved their record to 3-2, moving past the Giants (2-3).
“Troy did a great job of bringing us back,” Dallas Coach Jimmy Johnson said. “He made some big plays. You have to make big plays to beat a team like the Giants. It’s the best team effort we ever had in a spot like that.”
There’s something rotten in Cincinnati and it isn’t just the Bengals’ 0-4 record.
Coach Sam Wyche has complained to air pollution control authorities about the odor at Spinney Field, the team’s practice facility, in an industrial section west of downtown. Neighborhood residents have complained about foul-smelling air for several years.
An inspection last week found no hazardous fumes at Spinney, but Bengal players aren’t satisfied. They want the team to hold practices somewhere else.
“Until they know for sure it’s safe, they ought to move us out of here,” receiver Tim McGee said. “Let us practice anywhere where you can breathe.
“The scary thing is, you might not know the effects until you’re in your late 40s.”
The Bengals have long complained about the air quality at Spinney. Wyche phoned complaints to the Southwestern Ohio Air Pollution Control Agency twice this month, bringing an inspector to the facility last week.
Quarterback Boomer Esiason said airing the complaints isn’t an attempt to obscure the team’s 0-4 start. The Bengals and the rest of the AFC Central were idle Sunday.
“I’ve been complaining about this for eight years, and we were 4-0 with the smell when we went to the Super Bowl,” Esiason said.
CARDINAL FEVER: MISS IT
The Phoenix Cardinals improved their record to 3-2 with a 24-10 victory over New England, but they still haven’t quite caught on in the Valley of the Sun.
The game was played before 26,043--the smallest crowd to watch the Cardinals play in Tempe’s Sun Devil Stadium since the team moved from St. Louis before the 1988 season.
The reason they moved? Lack of fan support.
Deion Sanders, batting .193 for the Atlanta Braves, wasn’t much help for the Atlanta Falcons Sunday.
A week after Falcon cornerbacks Sanders and Tim McKyer shut down the Raiders, Atlanta was victimized by New Orleans quarterback Bobby Hebert for 197 yards and two touchdowns in a 27-6 Saint victory.
“I feel like hell,” Sanders said. “They worked me over. That’s how my body feels right now.”
Sanders had two tackles, one deflected pass and no assists. He also returned three punts for 37 yards and four kickoffs for 83.
The Falcons have a bye next week, so Sanders will make another one of his unique career moves and join the pennant race, already in progress.
“I’m sore because I had a lot of returns and that means a lot of hits,” Sanders said. “I’m heading for the jacuzzi and some rest tonight. Tomorrow, after practice, I’ll probably go to Cincinnati, but I’m not thinking baseball now. I plan on fulfilling every duty I have to the Falcons and don’t plan on missing anything.”
Anyone who watches NFL Films is familiar with the Holy Roller play. Remember when Oakland’s Ken Stabler fumbled the ball forward and Dave Casper kicked it ahead before falling on it in the end zone for a touchdown?
Well, the NFL rulesmakers were determined not to let that happen again.
Sunday, the Buffalo Bills led, 7-6, in the third quarter and were a yard away from completing a 91-yard drive. Buffalo running back Carwell Gardner leaped over the line on fourth down but was stripped of the ball by Chicago’s Steve McMichael.
If anyone other than Gardner had recovered, it would have been the Bears’ ball, because only the player who fumbles can recover for his team on fourth down.
Fortunately for the Bills, Gardner did recover in the end zone for a touchdown and Buffalo went on to a 35-20 victory.
Just another case of a Gardner taking care of his turf.
HERE AND GONE
Buffalo’s Bruce Smith, last year’s defensive player of the year, returned to action against Chicago Sunday after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his left knee July 22.
He wasn’t credited with a tackle, but Chicago quarterback Jim Harbaugh said: “I could feel a lot of pressure out there.” Buffalo Coach Marv Levy said: “I think Bruce made them nervous.”
New York Giant linebacker Lawrence Taylor injured his left thumb against Dallas and did not play in the fourth quarter when Dallas drove for its winning touchdown in the 21-16 victory. Coach Ray Handley said Taylor may have suffered a torn ligament and X-rays were taken.
HOW BAD ARE THE BUCS?
At 0-5, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are stirring memories of their early years, when they lost 26 in a row.
Sunday, in a 31-3 loss to the Detroit Lions, Tampa Bay quarterbacks did their best (or worst) to keep a controversy alive at that position.
Chris Chandler completed only 10 of 26 passes for 64 yards with one interception and was forced from the game late in the third quarter with a concussion. Vinny Testaverde came in and was seven for 13 for 54 yards with one interception.
Chandler did better as a runner, gaining 56 yards in six carries. Gary Anderson and Reggie Cobb, Tampa Bay’s best backs, combined for only 14 yards.
Ram linebacker and special teams player Paul Butcher, who recovered one fumble and forced another one against Green Bay: “It was the best three minutes of my life . “
Buffalo center Kent Hull on the Bills’ hurry-up offense: “When the clock is running down on us, it seems to get us going. It’s an offense that seems to thrive under pressure and not do so well when there isn’t much.”
Chicago Coach Mike Ditka on the Bears’ 35-20 loss to the Bills: “We’d done such a good job playing them for the first 30 minutes until the last 30 seconds. But this is a 60-minute game and you have to play all 60 minutes.”
New Orleans quarterback Bobby Hebert on the Saints’ defense, which has held three opponents in a row to fewer than 200 yards: “I’m not amazed because I’ve practiced against them.”
Detroit quarterback Rodney Peete on Barry Sanders: “You can’t say enough about the guy. He does something on every other play that makes the highlight film.”
Kansas City quarterback Steve DeBerg on the Chiefs’ 14-13 victory over San Diego: “We won ugly today, and fortunately this team is good enough to do it.”
Indianapolis Coach Ron Meyer on his 0-5 team’s offensive troubles: “It’s difficult when you can’t protect the passer and you can’t run the ball. When you get behind, the defense just tees off and gets after you. It’ll probably be the same thing next week.”
With four receptions, Buffalo’s James Lofton moved past Ozzie Newsome into fourth place on the all-time NFL list.
Lofton has 23 catches this year and 665 in his career. Ahead of him are Steve Largent (819), Charlie Joiner (750) and Art Monk (740).
PHILADELPHIA EAGLES at WASHINGTON REDSKINS
Time: 6 p.m.
TV: Channel 7
Think of this game as a test--both teams are.
The Eagles opened the season with a new coach in Rich Kotite and before the first game was over had a new starting quarterback in Jim McMahon.
The Eagles’ defense, though, has risen to the challenge and the team is off to its best start in 10 years at 3-1.
The Redskins (4-0) have scored 146 points and lead the league with 158 yards rushing per game.
“If the Redskins are not the best offensive team I’ve seen, it’s definitely one of the best,” Eagle defensive coach Bud Carson said. “This is not like the other teams that we’ve played, it’s going to be a big test for us.”
The Eagle defense has a league-best 19 sacks, and gives up 210 yards a game--58.8 on the ground. The Redskins’ line has given up only two sacks this season while averaging 36.5 points per game. The Eagles give up 10.7 points.
“It’s going to be a big-time matchup, a big test for us,” Redskin tackle Jim Lachey said.
When these teams played last year on Monday night, the Eagles won, 28-14, and nine Redskins were knocked out of the game with injuries, including quarterbacks Stan Humphries and Jeff Rutledge and running back Gerald Riggs.
“They pounded us into the ground,” Redskin Coach Joe Gibbs said. “When you get whipped like that, it’s something that sticks with you.”